A Day in the Life at Vassar College

Sarah earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Vassar College. She specializes in English tutoring, test prep tutoring, and a number of other subjects. Below, she shares her experience at Vassar College:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options. 

Sarah: Situated in the middle of the city of Poughkeepsie, Vassar College has an incredibly beautiful and bucolic campus. It is technically an arboretum, so the campus is full of trees of all different varieties. Campus is easily walkable, and there is no real need for a car or bike. There is a bike sharing program that my graduating class started for students who like the convenience of biking across campus. The college provides shuttle buses to the nearby train station that allows access to New York City—a service that students frequently make use of on the weekends.

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Sarah: Professors are incredibly available, and all classes are taught by full professors (not TAs). Class sizes are small (I only had one lecture in my four years at Vassar), so it is easy to cultivate close relationships with professors. They really go out of their way to make themselves available to students in class, during office hours, and even outside of formal class settings. The dorm buildings contain faculty housing, so professors (and often their families) live in the same buildings as students, acting as faculty residential fellows. It is very common for professors to attend campus shows/events and have students over for dinner.

How would you describe the dorm life—rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Sarah: Dorm identity is huge at Vassar. Most students live on campus all four years, and the office of residential life does a great job of organizing events all year long. There are no RAs or Prefects, but students are organized in Student Fellow groups with the other new students in their hall. Each group is assigned to a sophomore Student Fellow who does things like celebrate birthdays, organize dinners, and act as a resource for anything students might need. They really foster a sense of community from the moment students arrive on campus. Students often stay friends with the people they met in their Fellow group for all four years at Vassar. In addition to dorm life, there is always some kind of event, show, concert, party, club meeting, or lecture going on—tons of opportunities to meet people interested in a variety of different things. The dining centers are pretty great and have some great healthy options, including a ton a vegan food.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Sarah: The liberal arts are most well-represented, but in recent years, the college has been attracting more students interested in the sciences as well. I have always loved reading and writing, so I became an English major with a French minor and went on to chair the English Majors Committee. The English department is absolutely stellar, and the professors are tremendously impressive. One of the many ways that I thought Vassar was great for my field of study was the number of cross-listed classes it offers. I was able to take classes that counted toward my major but were also housed in different departments, bringing students in various disciplines into conversation with one another. It is not the place for a student who wants to sit in the back of a lecture hall and never utter a word all semester. But, if you’re like me and really want to engage with the coursework, the professors, and your fellow students, there is no better place.

How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Sarah: There is no Greek life on campus. The dorms and Student Fellow groups function in a similar way, providing a social and residential foundation for students. Students also tend to be involved in a ton of activities outside of class (sports teams, theatre collectives, a cappella groups, dance companies, etc.), which is another way students tend to meet one another.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? 

Sarah: The Career Center is a very valuable resource for students looking for internships, help with graduate school applications, and assistance in drafting a resume. They are really great at putting students in touch with alumni in their desired field as well.

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Sarah: Study areas are everywhere (lounges in every dorm), and the library is gorgeous and spacious. There are also computers accessible to students, if they happen to find (as I did) that their laptop dies during finals week. Study areas only get a bit full during finals, but never overcrowded.

Describe the surrounding town.

Sarah: Poughkeepsie is a small city in the Hudson valley. Students don’t spend a ton of time off campus in Poughkeepsie (there’s so much going on on campus!), but I can attest that there are some great restaurants in the area, lots of hiking trails a short drive away, and orchards for apple picking in the fall. Plus, the college is only a two-hour train ride to New York, and students often visit the city to catch a show or concert.

How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Sarah: The student body is around 2,500. Classes are small—I once had a class with four students total. I specifically chose a small school because I didn’t want to get lost in giant lecture halls, and I loved being in intimate class settings that provided lots of opportunity for discussion. You’ll get to know the students and professors in your department very well during your time at Vassar. For a student with a passionate interest in her/his field of study, it’s perfect.

Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Sarah: I loved the process of writing my senior thesis. I worked with Peter Antelyes, a truly fantastic professor who was the chair of the English department at the time. Each week, I had a one-on-one meeting with him where we went over the pages I had written and the research I was working on. In addition to being a really engaging and often hilarious professor, he was remarkably encouraging of my work. It was wonderful to get such individualized attention and mentorship from a professor I so respected, and I wound up creating a piece of writing I was really proud of. After I submitted my thesis, Peter had me and another student over for dinner at his home to congratulate us on our work. I don’t think I could have had that same kind of relationship with an academic advisor at any other college.



Check out Sarah’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.